National Portfolio Day

More than 1,000 hopeful college art majors attend event at George Washington University.

Some of the more than 1,000 art school aspirants who attended Saturday's National Portfolio Day at GW have their work critiqued.
Some of the more than 1,000 art school aspirants who attended Saturday's National Portfolio Day at GW have their work critiqued. (Zach Marin/GW Today)
November 23, 2015

By Menachem Wecker

For four hours Saturday, the Marvin Center could have been confused with an art studio. More than 1,000 art school aspirants lugged their work to the George Washington University Foggy Bottom Campus as part of National Portfolio Day.

The high school juniors and seniors lined up to meet representatives of 57 art colleges and universities with art programs. “It’s like a college fair for the arts,” explained Brittney Stephenson, GW assistant director of admissions.

The university hosted an event of the National Portfolio Day Association, a Plymouth, Mich., nonprofit, in Atlanta this year, but GW and its Corcoran School of the Arts and Design can better share course offerings with prospective students when they are on campus, according to Ms. Stephenson.

Diego Alberto, a senior at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District, spoke to GW Today while waiting to meet a Massachusetts College of Art and Design representative. The aspiring fashion designer also hoped to receive critiques from Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Design and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Mr. Alberto shared several self-portraits (some of them surrealist), figure drawings, abstract paintings and fashion designs with Yaritza Peña, a MassArt admissions counselor.

Explaining one self-portrait, Mr. Alberto told Ms. Peña at the time he had a “thing for eyes.” About another work, he emphasized the hair because it “captured my nature.” Another work related to his El Salvadorian heritage.

His explanations impressed Ms. Peña. After chatting for 15 minutes, during which she shared reactions to and tips about individual pieces, Ms. Peña recommended Mr. Alberto use the caption function on the digital platform SlideRoom, which many schools use for applicants’ portfolios.

“It’s so much more meaningful to me as an outsider,” she told him. “I feel like I don’t tell people enough: ‘Write, write, write. As much detail as possible.’”

Students sign up for review sessions during National Portfolio Day. (Zach Marin/GW Today)


At one of Maryland Institute College of Art’s tables, Zoe Fullmer, a senior at Salem High School in Virginia Beach, discussed her illustrations with Kenneth Yee, a MICA admissions counselor.

Mr. Yee led by asking her to start with the work that most excited her. Ms. Fullmer began with a large drawing based on a poem her friend wrote about a paranoid king, who kills his subjects. “I based it on the ‘Princess and the Pea,’” she explained.

In a hallway elsewhere in the Marvin Center, Philip Jacks, GW associate professor of art history, was waiting for his daughter Maya, a senior at Yorktown High School in Arlington. When she returned, Ms. Jacks, a photographer, revealed that she was interested in Rochester Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, VCU and Rhode Island School of Design.

Meeting staff from a variety of schools convinced Ms. Jacks that schools approach admissions decisions differently. “It’s good to get glimpses,” she said. “There is a lot of variety in schools.”

All in all, the event means a lot for GW and for the Corcoran School, said Deborah Snelgrove, B.A. ’85, who oversees marketing, events and visit experiences in the Office of Admissions.

“It punctuates not only the great art opportunities, but what the student experience will really be like,” she said.

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